Playing original lacquer discs

A buddy of mine is in a band that just discovered their original lacquer cuttings from back in the day. He’s asked if I’d be willing to play them and record them digitally. A prior attempt from master tapes didn’t work because the tapes failed during playback.

While I have no problem with the request (I’m actually pretty flattered to be asked), we’re talking about lacquers of unknown quality cut 40+ years ago in unknown condition. Some problems are visible with magnification, but I’m also concerned about how many "set-up" attempts I can run to get good recordings without causing damage. Adjusting VTA, pitch and input levels can take a few tries to get right.

So if any of you analog and recording pros out there can pass along your wisdom, I’ll be most appreciative. I can then relay those on to the folks who played the music in the first place to make an informed decision about whether they want to move forward.

I look forward to your replies.

All I know is Peter Ledermann has played these and usually one or two plays and the lacquer is beginning to show damage. Except with his SG1, that tracks so beautifully he can play lacquer with no wear. So there you go.
How well they were taken care of is what it’s all about..

And buddy it’s 70 years ago if it’s a minute.. LOL 78s were old when I was a kid.. I'm 66

Yes time does fly..

A little research on the ol cart is in order...

I still fire up a Victrola for the kids every now and then.. I profile a tip with 600, 1200, and a buff.. Eyes aren’t what they use to be..
Do you mean original lacquer masterdisc of acetate (dubplate), they are all lacquer.

I have old demo acetates (and new acetates) and if they are clean they can be played just like any other records.

Thank you for the dubplate link.  That could have been the intent, but these would have been very early days based on what that article indicates.

I'm not certain of the construction on these and they're several hundred miles away so a look-see isn't immediately feasible.  They were probably cut sometime between 1975 and 1980.  I don't know if they were intended to be mold positives for vinyl production or used to produce tape, however a vinyl record was produced back in the day.  The "master" tape that disintegrated was not described.

If I understand things correctly, there are several of these lacquer disks and each was made in studio sessions.  I searched the forums here and had Professor Google help me search the web, which is where I found information indicating these discs can be very fragile if they're actually first stage mold positives using lacquer on aluminum (or worse, cardboard).

To complicate things, everyone who was there is now old enough that they simply don't remember and all the studio notes are long gone.  They're just trying to recapture treasured memories with the best possible fidelity and are very hesitant to use the transfer services advertised online given the irreplaceable nature of the media.

I'm happy to help if I can, and it gives me an excuse to justify investing in a prosumer ADC I've been thinking about buying.  On the other hand, I don't want to ruin something unique I have only theoretical knowledge of.  My sound engineering background is strictly garage band demo tape stuff.  It was pretty good for poor students playing for beers in 1981 (12 channel stereo mixing board and 4 track open reel mastering deck), but pitiful compared to what real studios used.

If anything else comes to mind, I will very much appreciate the input.  Thanks again for the response!
Technology is the same now, there is a difference between lacquer used as a master (sent to the pressing plant from the studio) and a lacquer made as one-off for demo for everyone else (which is less critical to cut compared to the master lacquer). 

Anyway, you can still order both types today, same technology, just like in the 70s. Available in 7’inch, 10’inch or 12’inch.

Watch this video if you want to see how they cut it.